Where’s Mom?

When we were little, my siblings and I used to do hide-and-seek with my mother. It wasn’t a game. She was really hiding. And we were seeking. It was a big house–three floors plus a basement–and as we climbed the stairs calling, “Mom! Mooooooooooooommmmmmm!” we were sure that she must have gone down to one floor while we were ascending to another. Years later, when we were in high school ( and a smaller house), we learned that Mom had been hiding in her walk-in closet. It was her only refuge. We always found her if she tried to sneak a minute of peace in the bathroom.

My cell phone rings. It’s my sister. The one who wasn’t born yet when Mom played hide-and-seek.

“Where’s Mom?”

First thought: How the heck should I know?
Second thought: It’s the day she volunteers at the soup kitchen, but she would have been home hours ago. Maybe she’s napping.

“I’ve been texting and calling her for days and she doesn’t respond.”

First thought: She’s lying on the floor of her condo unresponsive and/ or dead.
Second thought: My sister is calling me because she’s having the same first thought. She could just go over to Mom’s and let herself in, but she’s calling me because she doesn’t want to go over there by herself. She wants me to go with her and call 911 and read the advance directive that Mom has posted on the fridge.

“She was alive on Sunday, ” I say. “She rsvp’d for Thanksgiving.”

“I know,” my sister says, ” I saw that she signed up, but she hasn’t responded to me since.” (We use an online sign up program, so everyone coming to Thanksgiving knows that Mom is bringing shrimp and her famous Vienna Cake.)

Ok. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. I saw her sign up post but haven’t talked to her for a couple of weeks.. Days have passed with no word from her.
Oh wait…was this the week she was going on a bus trip to West Virginia with her church friends? Or did she already go on that trip? I talked to her about a trip…wait…that was the trip to Cape Cod. The trip where none of the other travelers drank and she felt awkward having her vodka at dinner.
More guilt. I should know if this is the week she is going to West Virginia. I should have it marked on all my calendars in bold letters: MOM IN WEST VIRGINIA.
I tell my sister, ” This might be the week she’s on a trip to West Virginia.”

“Why doesn’t she tell people these things?”

“She told me.”

“She should tell more people.”

“I think she doesn’t so that we will have to get worried and call each other.”

“Well, I am nearly hysterical with worry!” says the sister who decades ago called Mom in post-partum distress threatening to harm someone. Mom flew in her car to save the baby from a crazed mother. When she arrived, the baby was quietly settled down for a nap while my sister calmly prepared a cup of tea.

“You do have a history of overreacting.”

“Wait…she’s texting me. She’s in West Virginia. I have to go. I’m going to call her and yell at her for scaring me.”

Poor Mom. She has forgotten the most important part of hide-and-seek….stay hidden.

Shrooms!

As though bags of cucumbers and bushloads of tomatoes aren’t enough to deal with the week before heading back to school, we just discovered some amazing gourmet mushrooms growing along our driveway. These aren’t the cute little morrels that John found where the ginko trees used to grow.  These babies are enormous.

Hen of the woods or black staining polypore?


The first is growing near the mailbox.  We contacted our chef buddy who contacted his mushroom buddy who believed that we have a hen of the woods.  Mushroom connoisseurs go crazy over these.  One hen-lover makes special lasagna with it—one to eat now and one to freeze for later. Hen of the woods mushrooms grow at the base of dead oak trees.  Sure enough, this one is at the base of a dead oak tree, and two more are growing on the other side of the tree.  The hen is a fall mushroom and can be found as early as late August after heavy rain.  It is not quite mid-August here but it has been unusually cool and wet…as our flooded basement can attest to.  They often re-appear in the same location year after year.  Hmm.  So maybe we now have a morrel location in the spring and a hen of the woods location for the fall?

Or do we have a black staining polypore?  The black staining polypore turns black where you touch it or cut it.  Growing under the oak tree, this mushroom is beautifully white on the underside and does not turn black when we touch it. However, once it is harvested and sitting in the mudroom, it immediately begins to turn and the cut edges are definitely black. The polypore’s season is July and August.  It has a wonderful earthy fragrance, more intense than a portobello.  While not as exquisite as the hen, it is edible and freezable, even in its blackened state.
Walking back to the ‘shroom for more photos, I spotted another mushroom along the drive.  After having researched the hen, I was pretty sure I was now spotting a chicken!  A chicken of the woods mushroom.

Chicken of the woods


Chicken of the woods has been described as tasting like…ready?  Chicken.  Or crab or lobster. Our new mushroom friend recently dipped hers in egg and flour and fried it for a heavenly meal that even her ten year old step-son liked.  

I thought we were having hamburgers for dinner tonight with a slice of tomato and home-made pickle.  Looks like the menu is changed to mushroom surprise.  It’s a surprise because I haven’t decided which one to cook first or how I want it prepared. I also have to decide what to do with what we don’t eat.  

This is feeling like Part One of a mushroom series.  And I haven’t even gotten to the intriguing topic of cucumber chips.

Stayed tuned.  And if back-to-school side-tracks me, then you’ll just have to nag. I have a feeling we will be dealing with the bounty of the land for quite awhile.

Post-dinner update: guess what? The chicken of the woods tastes like chicken!  We cooked it up using a recipe from Forager Chef and it was like eating chicken tenders.  Once we’ve waited 48 hours to not die from the chicken, John plans to saute up some of the other.  I really deserve a prize for being a supportive wife.

Surf and Turf

Not yet 8 a.m.  Vacation Man heads to the beach to set up camp for the day.  He’s not the first.  He has been spurred to action by another Vacation Dad hauling beach gear down the street.  Yesterday, he set out after eight and barely found a good spot. Today, while he claims his turf, the procession of Vacation Dads begins, probably spurred on by seeing him. Half a dozen WonderWheelers lumber down the street.  Not on the sidewalk, mind you, but down the middle of the street.  It is that early. They rumble and creak, piled with chairs and umbrellas and boogie boards.  

Toys and towels will come later, with the women and children.  But we are hours away from that. Lifeguards won’t report for duty for another two hours.  Sleepy-eyed children are still slurping cereal while watching cartoons. Comatose moms nurse their coffee.  Early risers are just now coming home from their runs, coffee and even newspapers in hand.

But Vacation Dads are out providing for their families.  

A good beach position is important.  You want to be juuuuuuust beyond the high tide line, at the crest of the rise of soft, fluffy sand.  Not only does this put you in front position, but this is where the breezes are best.  For families with young children, this position enables parents to supervise children from their beach chairs.  If they are too far back, some parents will still try to supervise their children from their chairs, but their cries of supervision can only be heard by the annoyed adults sitting around them.

Yesterday, it went something like this.  Little Dillon (never saw the boy in my life but I know his name now like I know my own) wanted his cousin/aunt/young female adult person who was used to doing his bidding to come out of the water and tend to him.  He is maybe four years old.

“Emma, I need you!…Emma, I need you!…Emma, I need you!”  He shouted this over and over and over and over again.  Louder and louder and louder.  But still, his little voice did not reach Emma, who was rolicking in the waves with other young ladies her age.  We (and the couple next to us) could hear him because he was sitting in front of us. Mom was behind us, in her chair.

“Dillon!  She can’t hear you!”  Yeah, well, Dillon couldn’t hear Mom either.  “Dillon! Dillon! Dillon! She can’t hear you!”  This went on like a recording on repeat.

Oh. My. Gosh.  It was all I could do to stay in my seat.  I wanted to tell the mom to get off her butt and talk to the boy quietly.  Or tell Dillon to quietly wait for Emma to come out of the water.  Or even go into the water myself and tell Emma that Dillon needed her. 

No, one does not correct other families at the beach, anymore than one gives unsolicited advice to people being attacked by seagulls while eating.  It is, however, perfectly acceptable to laugh when a teenage girl’s cry of “Gack!” is followed by “And this is why I hate the beach!”

Beach rules: Don’t correct other families.  Don’t give unsolicited advice.  Stake out your spot early.

I don’t know that other beaches adhere to the early stake-out rule.  It might be unique to the Cape May neighborhood we frequent, where families rent by the week or month and have routines.  It reminds me of Baltimore rowhouse neighborhoods during snowstorms.  There is no law that says you can stake out your parking spot with lawn chairs just because you shoveled it out.  But woe to the obnoxious neighbor who parks in a spot that someone else shoveled.  

Like parking spots after snowstorms, people at our Cape May beach generally accept that the early bird gets the prime location.  Even if the early bird won’t sit in it for hours.  It’s part of the beach culture here.  And astute Vacation Dads pick up on this quickly.  Is it a desire to keep the Woman happy?  Or is it a testosterone-driven competition?  Whichever, with every successive day, the WonderWheeler parade gets an earlier start.

Based on the number of prime spots already taken by 7:45, today’s parade must have started at dawn. 

Trees Must Die

Another tree made it onto my hit list this week.  It must come down.  It has attacked and offended me. 

The tree is perfectly healthy.  For years it has grown near the corner of our house, sneakily growing taller and reaching smidge by smidge over the driveway toward my car. And then, just as my car approaches its first birthday, the tree begins splotching sap. First, a curious clear sticky blob appears on the driver’s side door handle.  Then another streaks down the window.  Blip and blop, sticky patches bloom everywhere.  Where is the source of this oozy mess?  I look up and see just one possible source…the red maple that now arches all the way across the parking pad.  Last summer, when I bought the car, the tree did not reach this far.  It did not drip sap on the car last summer.  Last summer, it did not offend.

This summer, the tree has crossed the line.  Encroaching on the house is bad enough–it encourages the squirrels to find new access points to the attic.  But messing with my car?  See, Tree, now you have made an Enemy.

Mr. Handyman Husband already has tree-whacking on his To-Do List. He even has Son-in-Law salivating at the prospect of felling some trees.  However, there is a waiting list of trees that must come down.  

First in line are the two dead oaks out front that suffered a direct lightning hit a few years back.  These are the trees causing Son-in-Law to salivate, for standing dead trees mean instant firewood. Standing dead trees also pose the greatest risk of becoming falling dead trees, often in the middle of winter when a tree crashing through the roof is most inconvenient.

Next in line is the perfectly healthy hickory tree on the other side of the driveway.  This tree does not drip. It drops hickory nut bombs.  Then they roll across the driveway like grenades, ready to pop under the weight of car tires.  The car parked beneath the hickory tree belongs to IBM, so Handyman Husband does not care so much if the hickory nuts leave dents all over it.  His lovely Ford F-250, however, is an altogether different story.  The truck can get muddy, but dents?  No tree will ping nut bombs at the truck. So, the hickory tree is next after the dead oaks.

There are easily five or six more trees on The List, but the sap-attack tree takes precedence and immediately earns placement as Tree #4.

“How many trees can you take down at one time?” I ask Handyman Husband.

“We could take several trees down, but then we would have to deal with what is on the ground,” he replies.  

He knows what I want.  I want all the trees to come down and he can deal with the mess in stages for the rest of his life. I know it is impractical and unsafe and probably beyond human strength. But he’s been doing things for years that have been impractical, unsafe, and beyond human strength.  His eye roll lets me know to back off.  He can only do what he can do.

In the meantime, I have to deal with tree sap stubborn enough to withstand a high-pressure car wash.  A little bit of research provides a quick and easy solution: hand sanitizer! I squirt a bit onto my finger, rub it into the sap to break it up, then wipe with a clean towel.  Repeat forty thousand times to hit every single sap drip and voila! Sap is gone. Well, maybe there were twenty drips, not counting the ones on the roof that I can’t see and can’t reach anyway.  It didn’t take long at all to remove a week’s worth of tree droppings.

The tree still must die.  And I still must wait.  But armed with hand sanitizer, I at least do not have to drive around town with tree boogies stuck to my car.

A Sauna-dweller travels to Colorado

I should have packed eye drops, but I forgot that Colorado air is dry enough to suck out all your eyeball juice.  In Colorado, no one says, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” like they do in Baltimore.  In Colorado, when it is hot it is dry hot. Sweat doesn’t stick to skin like a wet blanket.  No, the air in Colorado is like a hot towel fresh from the dryer. Perspiration wicks right into that hotness, tricking one into thinking it isn’t happening at all.  At dinner, I chug two tall glasses of water and realize that I am just as dehydrated in the Dry Land as I am in Sauna Land.  

By Day Two, my sinuses are disgustingly crusty, reminding me of a visit to Spain where tour group members from Las Vegas complained about the humidity while Baltimoreans were discretely dealing with dried up bloodied boogers.  Ah, but on a brighter side, the tiny persistent patch of maybe-poison ivy is drying up.  Too small for a prednisone cure but too stubborn to succumb to over-the-counter cortisone, it seems to have met its match with 20% humidity.

Day Two is also when my body notices that there is hardly any oxygen at 5430 feet. I was born at sea level (ok, maybe fifty feet above, if you allow for whatever floor of the hospital I was on). The altitude of my hometown is 6.9 feet above sea level.  I currently live a whopping 689 feet above sea level.  I forego hiking today. Instead, I ponder the mysteries of the universe at the planetarium.

By Day Three, I can enjoy the low humidity and oxygen-deprived hike trails all at the same time. I think I am adjusting.  I overhear a clerk at McGucken’s Hardware telling a co-worker that she had to move “back down” because her oxygen levels were too low.  “Down” in Baltimore refers to “Downy Ocean, Hon” where we rinse our sticky sweaty skin in salt water. In Boulder, it means to come down off the mountains.  Yeah, the struggle is real.  

I think my eyeballs are drying out. I miss my eyedrops, the ones I use to treat excessive screen time.  They are in my other purse, the bigger one, the shoulder breaking one, the one I downsized because I do not need to constantly carry with me stuff for every possible contingency.  But dry eyes is a contingency I forgot to plan for.  

I did plan for my usual skin care. Still, the little tubes of moisturizer in the hotel that I usually stash as souvenirs in my suitcase to keep in my desk at work?  Gone. Every day, my skin soaks up the whole dang tube.

By the time I get semi-used to Rocky Mountain air, it is time to come home.  Reentry to Sauna Land is delayed by a band of thunderstorms in Baltimore that prevent our departure from Denver International Airport by an extra two eyeball-sucking hours. We emerge from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport into a slap-in-the-face literal 100% humidity.  As we drive home, steam rises from the highway.  Closer to rural home, puffs of low lying clouds hover barely overhead, and as we drive through the cornfields on our road, we see that the cloud puffs emerge directly from the field.  Rainfall is evaporating but there is no room in the air for it.  

The air, full of oxygen and saturated with water, is heavy to breathe.  I understand now how my (few and far between) houseplants feel when I finally relieve them of my neglect (all the more desperate since they often sit right by a sink).  I am like those dehydrated toy sponges in a capsule that come to life in a bowl of water.  Hydrating and blooming, I will be bloated again by morning.  

I think of the family from Austin, Texas, that sat next to me on the plane, who had vacationed at Yellowstone and were now visiting friends in Baltimore.  They must think they are drowning.

Ah, but they won’t need eyedrops.

Looking Up

My tag-along trip to Boulder while John is taking a class here got off to a near disastrous start. And by disastrous I mean epic fail,  I should have stayed home. But the ticket was bought, and it’s Boulder, so how bad could things be, right?

Premonitions of disaster began when I checked our hotel website.  We had stayed there five years ago and it was perfect for me five months after a new hip.  The hotel had a pool, beautiful grounds, and backed up to the Boulder Creek walking path.  The only downside was that breakfasts were not included and we had to pay extra to get a mini-fridge in our room.  Now, the website alerts guests that the pool is closed for repairs.  Grrrrrr. Then I read reviews from a month ago that said the main front revolving door was broken,  as well as the elevator, and the landscaping consisted of weeds. But we’ve stayed there before and people can be such whiners, you know?

I was working on having a good attitude, when, on our way from the airport to the hotel, our rental car got pinged by two road stones.  The windshield looks like the victim of a driveby shooting.  The bad vibes on this trip were increasing. (Attempts to reach a human being at Avis have so far been futile.)

We pull up to the hotel and, yes, the “landscaping” consists of weeds.  The main revolving door is still broken and a sign at the front desk informs us that the elevator is not working either. We retreat to our pock-marked rental car to think.  Thinking takes about 2 seconds. There is no way we are staying at the Millenium Harvest Hotel.  Every thing about the place screams “cash flow problems!” The pool repairs are inconvenient, but there is no excuse for a front door and elevator to be broken for a month.  And the weeds, hey, if I wanted weeds I could have stayed home. They at least have to be interesting. 

(I found the following weed at Sawmill Ponds.)

 John pulls out his ipad and pulls up the list of IBM approved hotels in Boulder.  The list is long and almost completely booked. Ah, but there is a new Hyatt on Pearl Parkway with a vacancy. We grab it and hightail it out of the nearly vacant Millenium parking lot.

We arrive at the Hyatt and the receptionist hails from  northwest D.C. We hit it off immediately.  She informs us that the only room available for immediate check-in is a corner suite with mountain view. Would we like to see it? There is a slight charge to upgrade. I totally agree to pay the $25/night upgrade that IBM won’t cover.  

The suite is awesome.  John and I are giddy with delight and disaster averted. The suite is probably larger than our first apartment. Kitchenette with fridge and microwave.  Real coffee mugs and glasses and dishes and stainless flatware. A living room and separate eating area. Comfy bed with phenomenal pillows. (How can a pillow can be thick and heavy and squishably soft all at the same time?) There is an indoor pool that opens to a courtyard.  All the amenities of a good business class hotel, tasty breakfasts included. Nothing gritty about this place.

The view? Mountains and a sky full of puffy clouds.  And oh, yeah…Barnes &Noble, Whole Foods, and a wine shop.  What more could I need?  Last night, after a stressful day, we dined in on wine and cheese.  This morning, after dropping John off at class, I stopped at Sawmill Pond Trailhead for a wetlands walk with mountain views.  This afternoon I will read by the almost outdoor pool, and this evening we will have dinner with our favorite Bouder resident, niece Colleen.

Things are definitely looking up.

I don’t know why I photo’d geese when I see geese everyday at school!

This little bee enjoyed the cactus-y weed. Like a clover blossom or chive blossom on steroids.

Launch

The boy is propelled toward adolescence like the bottle rocket he has just launched into the trees. With a whoosh, whistle, pop, and a burst of light, the pre-pubescent boy is in constant motion, loud, and bursting with self-discovery. And, like the bottle rockets blasting every which way or zipping dud right into the ground, the boy is aimed in the most general of directions.

It wasn’t so long ago that he drove the little battery-powered tractor across our yard and through the next to visit his great-grandparents.  With faces peeled to the kitchen window, we watched attentively through the trees for his arrival at Nana’s door. Today, in a new step toward manhood, he drives the zero-turn mower to the same door. And back.  In circles and zigzags and, rarely, a straight line.  It’s not that he can’t drive in a straight line.  He won’t.   Who wants to drive a straight line in a zero-turn?  His controlled zig-zagging holds some promise that he could actually mow the lawn. And his reverse slide into the mower’s parking spot is reminiscent of his aunt’s impressive eighteen second parallel parking of the minivan for her driver’s test. But what he really wants to do is drive round and round in tight little circles.  I suppose one could get the grass cut that way, leaving our Google Earth image looking like so many teeny-weeny crop circles.

His visit to the great-grands has netted him a marble chess set worthy of the budding chessmaster. Zig-zag crop circle boy is impressively analytical.  Next week is chess camp and, after that, PopPop, who first taught him the game,  will never beat him ever again.  This week PopPop lost to the boy, checkmated fair and square. “I can’t even blame scotch,” he sighed.  

The boy is in his element now that his grandfather is home from work.  Helping his grandmother harvest peas and beans was ok for about twenty minutes, but not nearly as adventurous as finding a turtle.  Unfortunately, finding a turtle requires a full day of outdoor wandering (preferably with another pre-pubescent boy) and a good dose of luck.  What he got from teacher/grandmother was a gentle suggestion to find something to read.  That suggestion went over like a wet firecracker.  The middle school has recommended a soul-crushing twenty-five books to read over summer vacation.  He is doomed to fail, so why even bother when he could make ingenious Lego creations from watching YouTube videos.

But PopPop is home and that means the boy can light a bonfire and ride the zero-turn and shoot bottle rockets while his grandparents sip adult beverages.

Meanwhile, inside the house, cell phones ping with un-answered texts from Mother of Boy.  

“Hellooooooo where is my child?”

He’s outside by a fire playing with explosives with his grandfather. The boy moving toward manhood and the man regressing into boyhood.  Controlled danger.  It’s all good.

Cue female eye-roll.

Three Things I Would Bottle

Three things I wish I could bottle for later: summer sunshine, the restorative powers of vacation sleep, and the energy of a child. Probably in that order.  I crave sunlight. I love sleep.  And with  every passing year, it takes more energy than I naturally have to carry me through the day.

I don’t want the constant energy of a child. I’m not really a high energy person.  I just want to bottle their non-caffeinated all natural enthusiasm so I can partake of  little sips when this dilapated body needs some.  An infusion of kid energy combined with the wisdom of years of experience would possibly enable me to complete everything that my caffeine-hyped morning self put on my to-do list.  

Yesterday, three grandkids paid a brief visit while desperate momma bought groceries.  In anticipation of their visit, I stopped my activities early to put my feet up with an iced Kahlua coffee and a couple of non-pareils.  (French note: non-pareil means “no equal” and I’m telling you there is no equal to one or two quality dark-chocolate non-pareils with a tall iced coffee laced with a splash of Kahlua.) Life got even better when hubby walked in early from work.  Back-up. 

See, the eleven-year-old has two speeds: hypnotic, technology-induced coma and hyper-adrenaline laced activity, which usually involves adult supervision and/or tickets to a theme park, but can be temporarily assuaged with a fidget spinner.  Prior to PopPop’s arrival his choice of activity was going to be a new book I bought.  He actually flipped through it and grunted tentative approval. Actual reading will likely require a sleep-over which he not so subtly hinted at.  But PopPop introduced a new level of engagement: driving lessons on the zero-turn mower. Do you want to see a fidget spinning kid toss aside the fidget spinner? Put him on a piece of heavy machinery and let him drive. He was in seventh heaven.  The trick will be to channel his enthusiasm into mowing all the grass.  I’m pretty sure money will be involved.  The kid is a mercenary when it comes to money.

Meanwhile, his three (and a half!) year old sister watched from the screen porch, dying to drive the kiddie tractor.  There was no way I was letting her out in the yard to get run over by her brother, so she had to content herself with non-stop storytelling to her captive audience (me) while  17 month old  brother busied himself removing everything from the kitchen cabinets.  His favorites: the salad spinner and crab mallets.  Lucky for me he didn’t use the crab mallets on the salad spinner.  Big brother eventually heeded sister’s sporadic cries to “Stop! Please stop! Stop now!”  Her interest in driving the battery-powered kiddie tractor lasted about three nanoseconds.

Since we were now all outside and little brother was investigating the human-powered toddler tractor, I took the talkative one over to the Big Hill so she could practice rolling down it.  Once upon a long time, her mother and aunts sledded down this hill (her mom sledding right into a tree that is no longer there). Now on a glorious sunny afternoon, the hill is cushy with thick zoysia grass.  I get her lined up perpendicular to the hill (she expected to “roll” with her feet facing downward as for sledding), I tuck her arms in, and cry, “Go!”  Silly me expected her to roll like a log down the hill.  That’s how one rolls, right?  In a sort of straight line, maybe veering off to the left or right?  

No.  This girl meanders down the hill like a child going from Point A to Point B in “Family Circus.”  It’s sort of a cross between a roll and a crab walk, limbs flapping and body flopping all over the hill in any direction but down.  I’m not going to tell her it’s wrong because she is delighted.  And if I tell her how to do it “better” I will have to demonstrate.  I am half tempted because the day is just that nice, but the fact that my knee is in a compression bandage from getting awkwardly into a car keeps my enthusiasm in check.

But oh, to have the energy of a kid!  I would sail through a teaching day with a three (and a half!) year old’s  energy and delight! I could tackle the biggest projects if I had the enthusiasm of an eleven year old on a zero-turn.  And my kitchen cabinets would look great if I tackled them with the reckless abandon of a toddler.  Add a splash of summer sun and some stored up slumber, I could take on winter.

Well, that’s not going to happen.  The best I can do is store up memories. Consider it done.  

Long live the queen

Getting a new hive of honeybees established is exciting but sometimes exasperating.  Lately it has been more exasperating.  Last year was so exasperating that not one of our new hives managed to survive even the summer.  We strongly suspect the problem was the queens.  When they arrived last year, the queens were so small we could barely distinguish them from their attendants. (Yes, queen bees have attendants.) In hindsight, we question the regal stature of those “queens.”  So this year, we ordered three new bee packages from a different supplier.

Two months after installation of this year’s packages, two hives are ready for second hive body boxes.  The third hive shows very little activity.  Mr. Beekeeper inspects the hive and finds very little brood and a dwindling number of bees. Exasperating.

But lo and behold! A queen cell!  How exciting!

The hive has recognized its problem and has chosen to raise a new queen. Why last year’s hives did not do the same is a question worth pondering. Why this hive needs to re-queen is another question.  Did the queen die?  Was she ill? Was she…gasp…old? Was she just a poor lay-er?  (This reminds me of my sister and her poor laying hens.  She shrieked death threats at them and the very next day, they resumed laying.)

Queens cells take eight days to hatch from the time the cell is capped.  About ten days after spotting the capped queen cell, we take a peek inside.  The queen cell is now empty.  We look for the queen.  This is sort of like Where’s Waldo–find the one bee that is longer than the hundreds of other bees.  Fortunately, the bees are only on a couple of frames, one of those frames is exclusively capped honey, and the other frame is where the queen cell was.  And we find her!

Now we wait.  The new queen needs two weeks to get established.  She must exit the hive for mating flights with drones.  There are drones visible in the hive and a few drone cells waiting to hatch.  There are also plenty of drones buzzing around the other two hives.  Our queen will not lack opportunity. And then she must get busy laying eggs.  In about three weeks we will peek inside again, hoping to see lots of new brood cells.

Here’s hoping we will still be excited in three weeks.

Summer Time

With the school year over, my To-Do List looks a little different:

1. Wake up to daylight.

2. Have a second cup of coffee.  Finish the coffee while it is still hot.  

3. Pee whenever I want to.

4. Hydrate.

5. Repeat item 3.

6. Be outside.

7. Eat when I am actually hungry.

8. Think about things.

9.Drink more coffee later with ice cubes because it is a choice, not because it is what sits before me from morning.

I am pleased to report that on Day 3, I am wildly successful in completing this To-Do List.  Not that it has been easy. Take item 4, for example.  Whoever decided that everyone should drink 64 ounces of water a day must also have invented water-boarding as a form of torture.  I do love my chilled water (infused with natural flavors), but by ounce 48 I’m drowning.  However, I have flushed 2 lbs out of my body, so I will Keep Hydrating and Carry On.

The real struggle is with my addiction to To-Do Lists. I have other Lists for this summer.

  • All the things I need to do to be better prepared for the next school year. (As though,after 33 years in the classroom,I am unprepared.  Still…)
  • All the things I need to do around the house because it fell into near total chaos during the school year.  Only the bi-weekly sprint to tidy before the cleaning ladies arrived saved us from total disaster.
  • All the things I need to do to be the perfectly healthy individual that everyone else I know is.  Or at least so I can visit the doctor for a checkup and not cringe.
  • All the people I am going to invite over because I don’t have the overstimulation of the work week as an excuse and because introverts love to spend their vacation hosting events.  (FYI, for an introvert, hosting more than 2 people is an event.  So if I invite just two of you over,  consider than an act of love.  More than two, I am sacrificing myself on your behalf.)
  • All the summery fun things I need to do to feel like I had a vacation.

So, yeah, the list of Lists is fraught with opportunities for failure.  There is no way to do this.  And each of these Lists comes with Sub-Lists.  And yet I need the Lists or I will do nothing.  It’s like my WeekSheet of lesson plans.  I may not get everything done by Friday,  but I come a whole lot closer if I work to the plan.

A missionary to Cameroon shared at church last Sunday his struggle with being back in the States for a year.  The Africans have a saying, “Westerners have clocks; Africans have time.” It is hard to shift from one timeframe to another.  That really resonated with my launch into summer.  I have a “need” To Do while simultaneously desiring a break from the tyranny of doing.  I long to discern the difference between maximizing my minutes and fully living in time. I long for a compromise between the list the top of this page and the List of Lists lurking beneath it.

For the moment, my compromise is looking like this:

  • Look at each day as a day of possibilities. What can I do as opposed to what ought I to do? (Being the first-born that I inescapably am, my “can-I’s” will surely contain enought “oughts” to keep me from sliding into total slothful irresponsibility.)
  • Follow the nudges of the Holy Spirit and be open to divine appointments.

And for the immediate moment, I am behind on my water intake and I have to go to the bathroom.

THE END

If you paint the door…

The front door has been a mess for years.  And for years I have said, “The door must be redone before Thanksgiving!” And Thanksgivings came and went. And the door just got more and more mortifyingly ugly.

Why, you ask, can’t you just redo the door? What is your problem? In the immortal words of Nike, “Just do it!”

If only it was so simple as refinishing a door.

The problem goes back twenty years to when we built the log home.  The thing with log homes is that you don’t know what you don’t know until you’ve (not) done it.  We didn’t know not to buy pre-hung doors.

The pre-hung doors came with frames that were narrower than the log walls.  The doors never sat right in the opening. This is one reason why the doors never cleared the entry rug. Also, the pre-hung frames came primed.  The house is natural (not painted!) wood. What do we do about that? The obvious solution–to rehang the doors–was too exhausting to contemplate after moving into the house.  So we did nothing.

Fast forward to now and we have a Project. And it is really getting done this time. Here is the project, which will hopefully clarify why it took so long to want to actually do it.

Step one. Remove the entire door and frame. This was both terrifying and exhilarating.  There was no front door on the house! Good thing we live in the middle of the woods and no one knows how to get here. The empty door  took me back to construction days and the excitement of laying the logs. Even the woody smell was fresh.  At the same time, the raw gaping lack of doorness stood in contrast to the cozy interior that developed over the years.  Oh, what a mess John was going to make!


You may be wondering how long the front door was missing. Occasionally (usually on weekends) the door was off overnight with shower curtains and plywood covering the opening to try to keep the bugs out. Boris the Bear made only the one appearance this summer and has long since meandered north. The deer don’t usually want to come in. They just stand around watching with heads cocked in curiosity. However, most days, especially during the work week, the entire door with frame was put back in place.

Step two, inspect and repair water damage. This was probably the biggest (and yes, dumbest) reason we procrastinated on the project. We were afraid of what we might find. Mercifully, damage was manageable. John replaced two rim joists by the door, some subfloor, and a bit of hardwood flooring just inside the door.

Step three. Build an entirely new door frame and sill.  The staging area for this was the front yard with the frame being lugged to and from the mudroom where it was stored before installation.

Step four. Oops. Realize that the new frame will require the entire opening to be enlarged.  Yes, cut the log walls.  This generated a good mess.  The shower curtain was cumbersome but kept most of the mess outside.

Eventually, get to the “actual” project, strip the old finish off the doors.  At first, this looked to be a tedious task. Scraping or sanding risked ruining the authentic wood grain pattern on the “genuine” fiberglass door. But John figured out that if he left the stripper on long enough, he could powerwash everything off. (It was a good thing to learn, because there are are more doors to be done at a later date!)




And finally, paint the doors. 

After all the intense labor of undoing the pre-hung error and ensuing damage, we get to the actual door. The decision to paint resulted from the prohibitive cost of replacing the fiberglass doors with solid wood.  We chose red for dramatic effect in the woods, against the log structure, and to complement the interior decor. But how to get the right red???  There are so many reds!

Crimson…with color pairings! And reflection of John removing old stain with the power washer.


Thankfully there are paint chips and other people’s mistakes. One friend in particular loved her red door until she realized that it clashed with her Christmas wreath. Therefore, while Maywood Man power washed the stain stripper off the doors, I lay paint chips all over the front step and pulled out four seasons worth of door wreaths. From there, I eliminated colors. The wreaths were immensely helpful.  They revealed which reds were too brown or too purple. Some reds looked good against the logs but made a wreath look dull.  Some wreaths made the red look dull.


I settled on crimson.  It worked with the logs. It worked with the wreaths. It looked good both outside and inside the house.  I actually went around every first floor room holding the paint chip against drapes and wallpaper.  I wasn’t looking for a match, just compatibility.

An added plus, the crimson chip had color pairings. I now have the right shade of off-white  to redo the hallway!

Because, if you paint the door…

   But that’s a whole nuther post.

We are delighted with the door, both inside and out. Before we began the project, I had bought new wreaths for fall because I was tired of the wreaths I had. However, once the doors were painted, the old wreaths looked better on the doors than the new ones!